A temazcal is a an ancient Aztec tradition of cleansing and purifying one’s body and mind, to facilitate a return to one’s soul-truth. That is my interpretation. It has recently become more of a trend for truth-seekers and spiritual individuals. I have come to view the temazcal as a privilege and an opportunity for one to liberate themselves from the accumulated weight and cloudiness that comes with living in our material world.
This was my third temazcal experience; first as a professor. We took taxis to this spa where the temazcal structure was located. The structure was quite big and comfortable, very different from my first experience in Amatlan. And even though I should not compare the experiences, as each one has its own sacredness, I did. When I heard students’ reactions about how intense it was just to be inside the structure, or how bonded they felt with the group, it felt staged, inauthentic. This experience was also less meaningful to me because I was confused about whether I should allow myself to experience it or if I should be watching others. So I watched others and tried to have an experience too. I watched how some people needed to proclaim how moved they were, while others genuinely tried to have a personal experience with themselves and their companions. Some people were care-taking, others were trying to find ways to stand out and be special. There are always personalities, but the few who were hogging the show, and turned it into a show in the first place because they need it to be one in order to find their role, really left little space and energy for something beautiful to happen collectively.
The powerful thing for me was what came the next day.
The crucible created by Dr. Platt became very clear and visible to me for the first time. The five weeks people spend together, living in a new environment, some living together, sharing bedrooms, breaking bread, attending classes, partying, engaging in planned cultural activities, finding a rhythm and routine in D.F…. Meanwhile they are dealing with many variables giving way to feeling intense vulnerability. All these variables give the group an opportunity to project, re-enact, avoid etc. the way one may have reacted (or is still reacting) within their family of origin. The group process allows for healing to take place if people take advantage of the door that are open.
And so it did. The next day the group spent 5 hours together sharing… many disclosed about trauma and addictions, there were conflicts within the group, people were challenged. So much happened that it made 5 hours talking feel like half that time. Although my eyes afterwards did feel like I had spent 5 hours crying. Many felt free, some felt closer to one another, others felt nothing different.
It is really difficult to me to not cry. I have never been good at it. I get overwhelmed with emotions from people’s stories and also with my feelings of love, respect, and pure admiration of the beauty in people when they express themselves from a place of authenticity. People articulate such difficult experiences so eloquently. It is what we help our clients do – articulate their experience. And who are we as therapists if we do not do for ourselves what we expect others to do with us? We preach the importance of making time for self care, but with the pace of our lives, it is difficult for many people just to feel that they are keeping their head above water… then to do it well is a whole other thing. People are sick from not being seen or heard.
I am not unaffected. I often silence myself in the presence of strong personalities. I often stumble clumsily over my words and believe I have nothing to contribute or offer. It almost doesn’t bother me to be invisible – I am safe when no one hears or sees me. Nothing bad or good can happen. As a professor, I have to be seen or heard. If I am not, I am doing a disservice. This is what I hear – and I think I believe it. My challenge is to create space for myself and be fearless and thoughtful as a professor and as a human being.
There is something special about the crucible approach. It is the ultimate opportunity for differentiation to take place.